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Alien Seeds
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-849-4
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 210 Pages
Published: July 2011
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

When one of the Strake brothers is out prospecting with a metal detector he finds what he thinks are peculiar little gold nuggets midway up the Mogollon Rim, a drop off from the Colorado plateau. When Gary Strakeís girlfriend Mona calls John Strake for help because his brother is acting peculiar, she is dead when he arrives, her throat torn out. Gary swears thereís something else, something big, buried where he found the little gold colored objects. He also thinks some one or some thing has been stalking him. When the brothers and the sheriff begin investigating Monaís murder they are attacked by a creature that looks like a horribly mutated cougar. Then when they find that the nuggets have an almost fatal attraction, they know they need help--and soon! Teaming up with two attractive female scientists from the University of New Mexico, an investigation begins, both there and at the site on the Mogollon rim where a suspected spaceship lies buried. But nothing is as it seems and solving one problem only leads to numerous others, until the brothers and the scientists wonder if theyíll even live long enough to solve a mystery that threatens to take them all the way off earth. 2008 EPPIE award finalist.

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2008 EPPIE award finalist

Alien Seeds (Excerpt)


CHAPTER ONE

My brother Gary has always been the adventurous one of the family, although anyone who doesnít know about him might think itís me who loves living on the edge. Iíve been involved in a few escapades, including one real war and one that never made the headlines but was real enough to those of us being shot at all the same. And Iíve traveled a lot, itchy feet being something all the men of our family have in common. I was something of a rounder in my younger days, drinking and gambling and bouncing from woman to woman and place to place while thinking Iíd never find that true love the romance novels tell about.

Thatís not adventure, though, not the type that Gary goes looking for and all too often finds. Iím talking about jungles and mountains and deep sea diving and things like that, along with the same wars I was in. Plus an extra one he managed to find that we donít talk about too often. And he always did love prospecting, looking for gold and old coins and antiques on beaches, abandoned mines and at ancient home sites and the like as well as searching for gold nuggets in wild country all over the world. Which brings me to the point where he involved me in one of his wild man adventures, and Iím not talking about the usual, like the time he wound up in the Pacific with his new wife on a disabled dive boat going from circling sharks with hungry gleams in their cold lidless eyes to a giant typhoon that almost did them in. Thatís just the usual run of life for him, not at all out of the ordinary. This time he went way beyond that.

It started with a phone call, but not from him. It was from his current girl friend, Mona Lighthouse, the latest in an untold number heíd left behind with scarcely a ripple of emotional upset on his part. She wasnít exactly hysterical, but she was close to it, which wasnít like her. She had been with him a couple of months ago when Gary talked her into going on a "vacation" with him. They wound up in British Columbia, high up in the Rockies, on the side of a mountain, inching their horses up a trail not fit for goats, but just the kind of terrain Gary likes to explore. In deference to Mona, he had even hired a guide, who promptly led them to that god-forsaken trail when Gary took him aside and told him Mona was really wanting to see some "wild country." Mona had said nothing of the sort, of course, but she said a lot when they wound up at the so-called pass and it was iced over. The trail was so narrow they couldnít even turn the horses around. Gary and the guide spent most of the daylight hours chopping ice while Mona sat on a horse, too scared to even get off and relieve herself, and slowly turning into a block of ice. She was shivering so bad she couldnít even scream when the lead pack horse shifted its feet, touched an ice-glazed rock and tumbled down the mountain, taking the other two supply-laden horses with it. Fortunately, Gary had taken the precaution of not roping them to their own horses, but simply pulling them along with a hand rope. Once they finally got home, Mona referred to it as "The Vacation From Hell", capital letters included. But she hadnít gotten hysterical, even when the horses slid off the mountain. Or so he told me.

Anyway, Mona said "John, I think you better come up here and see if you can find out whatís wrong with your crazy brother."

"Whatís he doing?" I didnít bite on the term she used to describe him. Heís been called worse things lots of times.

"Prospecting, so he says."

"Then thatís what heís probably doing," I told her. Gary purely loves to hunt for gold, even though heís never found that mother lode he keeps talking about or discovered the "lost" mines his old treasure maps refer to.

"I guess so. It the way heís prospecting, though."

"How?" I asked. Hell, I didnít know but one way to prospect, and that was with a metal detector. Gary has spent a small fortune on the devices, always going for the most expensive ones, with all the bells and whistles, guaranteed to find a microgram of gold forty feet beneath solid granite if you can believe their ads.

"Well, he goes out in the morning with this detector he bought last month, then he comes home mumbling and saying he needs a microscope and he should call John, then he cusses and plays around adjusting the settings on his detector until all hours of the night and never does call you and then the next morning he goes out again. Heís acting like a crazy man."

"Thatís normal for him," I said, trying to jolly her a little. She takes Gary too seriously. It didnít work.

"No, itís not, this is different from his normal crazy. Heís acting all mysterious and telling me he canít tell me what heís found or what heís looking for or even where heís looking. Thatís not like him."

Well, I had to admit it wasnít. Normally, he likes to talk about all the gold heís going to find with his newest toy or how he had bought a new treasure map that was "guaranteed" to be authentic. I had given up asking him where all his gold was or why the dealer was selling it if the map really did point the way to a mountain of gold or diamonds or lost Spanish treasure or a shipwreck or... well, you get what I mean. "Where are you now?" I asked. The last time I had talked to my brother he had been up in Alaska, looking for a purported Bigfoot. The only thing he found was an Inuit girl who led him astray and taught him a few new things about the frozen north that canít be related in polite company.

"Well, weíre either in the Blue Range or The Blue Ridge, depending on which side of the state line weíre parked on."

I had to think for a moment or two before it came to me. Combine New Mexicoís Blue Ridge Wilderness with Arizonaís Blue Range Primitive Area and you have two pieces of earth that encompass a wild, generally dry, and seemingly endless expanse of rough but beautiful terrain. The state line is all that separates the two areas, with New Mexicoís Wilderness tucked into the Blue Range Mountains and halved by the Mogollon Rim, a dramatic edge of the Colorado Plateau that runs east to west. I had gone there once after my divorce to find a little solitude. That woman I had been married to could talk the cement out of a brick wall and never shut up from dawn to dusk. "Thatís pretty country," I commented, without the commercial I could have added. "Whereís Gary now?"

"How the hell should I know? He leaves before the sun comes up and wonít tell me where heís going. Someplace in the goddamn blue yonder."

She was really agitated. "And you say heís wanting a microscope? Well, I can understand that. It takes one to see most of the gold he finds."

My effort at humor fell flatter than my billfold after Joanneís divorce lawyer got through with me.

"John, please come up here and help. Iím at my witís end."

"How long has this been going on?" I temporized, not really wanting to leave my new job as the night lab tech at Womenís Hospital in Little Rock . It gave me a chance to meet lots of pretty nurses and most of the night I could loaf and work on the novel I was writing about the evils of talkative women, not that I expected it to sell. The publishing industry is mostly controlled by liberal female editors these days. That kind of book had about as much chance of being published as a baby rabbit did of surviving in the same kennel with a starving wolf. On the other hand, I had written a couple of science fiction novels good enough that a small publisher took a chance on them. And lost money. Unless they have the finances for thousands of copies to be printed and have a big advertising budget, the chain bookstores wonít stock books by a small publisher. And the big publishers wonít look at a book unless you have an agent. So far what little success Iíve enjoyed has come with e-books, the kind you download to your computer or phone or a reader. Iíve had two books out in print but my publisher wouldnít risk another.

"I donít remember. Too long. Heís lost weight, too. And he carries his pistol everywhere he goes now. Wherever he goes."

Now I was worried. Not about carrying a firearm. Weíve both always been partial to guns. Up in that country itís not a bad idea, if for no other reason than rattlers and cougars. But losing weight? Not the way he liked to eat, as if the world had never heard of trans fats and bad cholesterol. I sighed. "All right, give me directions. Iíll see if I can get some time off."


***

I couldnít get any time off, so I quit, very reluctantly, telling myself Gary was going to owe me big time for this little trip, especially since I swiped one of the lab microscopes from the storeroom to take with me and would probably wind up in jail if I ever came back that way. Or maybe not--it was an older scope, relegated to the storeroom when the lab bought new ones. Besides, that goddamn intern Bonnie was seeing when I wasnít around would probably have her locked up by the time I got back, even if finding out what was going on didnít take that much time. Iíve got it figured out. God just doesnít like me, any more than that intern does, so screw them both.

I shouldnít have had that thought. I spent three hours in line at the airport, then the flight was cancelled for some goddamn reason, probably because the captain had a hangover and couldnít fly. They should have hired Gary. He flew in the war with more than a hangover. He even got grounded once when the flight surgeon made a surprise blood alcohol check on the pilots one morning. He flunked it bigger than I busted my Physics final in pre-med, which is why Iím a lab tech now instead of a doctor. They put him back on the schedule later, though, when his replacement didnít come back from his first mission. My brother can fly planes better drunk than most pilots can sober on their best days.

I spent the night in one of those damn plastic chairs thatíre designed by crooked chiropractors to increase their business, then finally got out of Little Rock at ten oíclock the next morning. By the time my connecting flight, in a little private chartered jet, landed me at Mogollan airport that evening I was pretty well pissed at the world. Mona must have given up on me because she wasnít there to meet me. My cell phone was dead when I tried it. When I used the phone at the airport to try calling them, I got no answer, even though it was getting late, already after dark. I finally wound up hiring one of the locals to take me to the address Mona had given me, which took just about all the cash I had left except for my emergency bundle in a safe deposit box back in Little rock I had decided to leave alone. Let Gary pay the bills; he was the reason I was here.

The local drove for about an hour along dusty, twisted roads. I just rolled down the window and smoked and cussed Mona for getting me to come and cussed Gary for making me start back smoking, and then added some more cussing just for the hell of it. It didnít accomplish much but it made me feel better.

It was dark at the place the local let me out at, an old adobe Spanish type home that looked to still be in fair condition as near as I could tell in the headlights of the car. It was late, though, so I figured Mona and Gary had already gone to bed. I paid the man, collected my bag from the trunk and coughed out the dust from the cloud he buried me in as he sped off. It was like he wanted to get away from there in a hurry.

There wasnít a doorbell that I could find. I knocked, waited, then knocked again, louder. No one answered. I tried the doorknob. It wasnít locked. I guess they didnít worry about burglars this far out in the boonies. I pushed the door open and called out. "Mona! Gary! Itís me, John!"

No answer. I tried again, louder. "Hey, anybody home? Gary? Mona?" The silence was deadly, like just before that door in the supposedly deserted mansion starts to creak. Suddenly I wished I had my gun in my hand but it was still in my bag. Besides, what did I need a gun for, I asked myself. I felt around for the light switch, found it and flicked it on. Then I knew why I wanted a gun. The door opened into a combination kitchen and living room. It had been trashed, like someone searching for hidden money. I felt goose bumps breaking out all over and they werenít caused by the breeze coming from the door, still hanging open and making me antsy, like someone might come charging through it any moment with mayhem on their minds. I didnít close it, though. From the looks of things I might need to clear out in a hurry--except where would I go? I was forty miles from nowhere, no transportation--no, wait. Maybe one of their cars was around in back. All Iíd need to do was find the key.

I shook my head, trying to get myself to thinking straight. Damn it, I couldnít go anywhere yet, not knowing what had happened. Besides, the house might not be as empty as it looked. I donít know why I tried to avoid making any noise as I sat my bag down and slowly unzipped it and fumbled for my gun, a little forty caliber Smith and Wesson takeoff of the bigger .45 caliber Glock, then chuckled nervously. I had already made enough noise to rouse the dead calling out for Mona or Gary. If anyone was there, I was probably already in more trouble than a mouse at a psychologistís convention. Nevertheless, once I had my little pistol in my hand I felt much better. That lasted only until I got to the single bedroom and pushed open the door.